Recently, I found myself trying to give a close friend some sound advice. His dilemma was a tough one. A journey that I had not yet navigated through myself. Without much direction and certainly no clear path, how would he ascend the daunting mountain of an obstacle that lay ahead of him? He was searching for answers and unfortunately, I had none. In my head I started praying and I asked God to bring me some supernatural wisdom to share with my friend in need. Instead of honing in on an epiphany that I could reveal to my friend, I started reaching for some of the colloquial phrases that we probably find surfacing way too often, at least I do. Phrases like “The million mile march starts with the first step”, or “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
I mean, seriously….who thought of these phrases anyway? Who do we know that has marched even close to the tune of a million miles? And an African elephant is a 12,000 pound creature. The average human eats only about 4 pounds worth of food each day. I’m no rocket scientist, but that sounds to me like we’re talking about 3,000 days’ worth of eating elephants. That’s over 8 years! In the midst of my friend’s completely overwhelming situation, where life seems too tough and almost hopeless all together, here I am wanting to offer up metaphorical advice on eating elephants. Wow.
I don’t really feel like I’m going out on much of a limb hear, but I believe every single person reading this blog can think back to a similar time in their lives – where this life just feels downright overwhelming and every single problem / solution seems hopeless at best. I would even dare to say that a lot of us, if we’re being completely honest, feel that this is describing the season that we are currently in. Many of us have embarked on new journeys and don’t know the destination, or even where to start. Maybe some of us have found ourselves in a situation where we are dissatisfied with a series of decisions we’ve made and we do not even know where to go from here. It could be that financial struggles are looming over our heads. Maybe relationships that we’ve been fighting for are crumbling beneath our fingertips. Maybe illness and disease are plaguing loved ones and we feel that we’re at the end of our rope praying for healing. Whatever the giant obstacle we are facing, we just feel stuck. Staring into the face of what feels like a hopeless situation, with no end in sight….is a scary place to be! If you have ever been here, or maybe you’re here now, the only natural question to ask ourselves is, “What next? Where do I go from here?”
I found myself thinking about my friend’s situation in my quiet time. I found myself reflecting the great obstacles in my own life. As I the wheels in my head turned, I opened up the word and I ran across a story in the Bible that really shed some light on everything. The story, in John 5:1-15 (read it, it’s good!), recounts the tale of a man who was in dire circumstances. The story tells of a disabled man who was trying to make his way down to a pool of water called Bethesda. You see, this particular pool of water was rumored to have healing powers. The blind, lame and paralyzed came from all over to dip themselves in the pool, searching for some end to their ailments and a new start to the rest of their life. This particular man in the story had been disabled for 38 years. Can you imagine the size of the elephant this guy was facing? The frustrations and questions he must have had….searching for healing and answers, not knowing what to do next. I wonder if his buddies ever chimed in, “You know how to eat an elephant, right”?
As the man tries to make it to the pool with no avail, the story pans over to Jesus’ point of view. Jesus asks the man, “Do you want to get well”? Um… let’s stop right here. Why does Jesus ask this guys that question? Of course he wants to get well! He’s been crippled for 38 years. I’m sure he’s tried everything at this point. The disabled man looks at Jesus and more or less says, “I’m trying man.” “Every time I’m about to try to get in the pool and get healed, someone else goes down ahead of me and I’m left in the same boat. The same situation where I left off.” I can almost feel his pain. The years of heartbreak and disappoint. He’s found himself in the same situation he’s been in since he can remember, trying to do everything in his power and finding himself catching the short end of the stick once again.
Jesus response to the man blows my mind. He tells him “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk”. Wait…that seems too easy. You just want him to pick up his mat and walk? What about all of the struggles he’s had Jesus? What about all of the problems that have been building up over the past 38 years Jesus? The solution is just for him to pick up his mat and walk? ….and then it hit me. In the face of an obstacle that seems bigger than life and impossible to tackle, Jesus told the man to get up. With an elephant in his way, a life that had been getting the best of him, a hopeless situation where there was no end in sight, Jesus told the man to take a bite. He gave him one simple command. Get up. Granted, this simple command seemed like an impossible task, but the man trusted in Christ. He trusted his next step in the hands of the one true healer and redeemer. The one who holds eternity in the palm of his hand. The one who loves us more than we can ever imagine and wants to give us life to the fullest. He listened to Jesus. He put his faith in the one simple instruction Jesus gave and then responded.
What giants are you facing in your life? What hopeless situation have you been facing and trying to resolve, but you’ve found no relief? Give it to Jesus. Get in the word and seek him with all of your heart. Ask him what your next step should be and listen. No matter how simple, how impossible, how crazy, trust him and he will blow your mind! I trust that in this season of life he’s giving us all a next step, even if it is be patient and wait. Take the first bite. Trust him with your next move and then the one after that. One day at a time, let the Creator of the Universe who has gone before make our path straight. God promises that He will be a lamp unto our path if we seek Him. We might not be able to see the end in sight, but this story offers hope and encouragement to faithfully trust in His goodness and take the next step!
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.”